Lawyer Milloy knew what was coming this week. All the Seahawks did.
So before the question was even all the way out of the interviewer’s mouth, the veteran safety had already launched into an answer he was ready to give to any and all critics of his team and the NFC West, which on Sunday will produce a division champion with a 7-9 record if Seattle wins, or a slightly more respectable 8-8 record should St. Louis prove victorious.
“This game is exciting, man,” Milloy said. “(Shoot), what else you want? End of the year, last game of the season, playing for a championship, that’s it. No matter how you write it up, that’s what it is. That’s why you play the game as a player. This game is it… We can’t worry about [records], we’re in a championship game, period, point blank.”
Well, Lawyer, since you asked, what the rest of country wants is a playoff team with a winning record, which is why, depending on people’s outlook, Sunday’s game to crown an NFC West champion constitutes either tragedy or comedy. Those with a sense of humor are spending the week making fun of the NFC West, which very well may be the worst division in the league’s history, while those less inclined to find humor in the absurd are screaming about what an injustice all of this is. How, they demand to know, can a 7-9 team get a spot in the playoffs, let alone get to host a game?
But no matter how strange this situation is, no one in the Seahawks’ locker room is any less excited about their chance to win the division just because of the tiny little detail that they have only won six games this season.
“Why?” receiver Mike Williams said. “(Shoot), as bad as the records are in this division, that’s obvious, none of that will matter after this week whether it’s for us or St. Louis, because all the records will go back to zero-zero, and it won’t matter how many games a team won in the regular season. Every year you see teams that won 10 plus games and they’re out in the first round. It happens every year, so what’s most important is getting past this week. Everyone’s opinion about the NFC West, that’s they’re opinion, and good for them. We’ll just try to take care of business.”
But while the Seahawks and Rams head into Sunday’s game heads held high, well aware of what’s at stake, much of the rest of the country is opting to point and laugh. Because this is the only game this weekend with such clear-cut playoff implications, it was flexed into the Sunday night spot, meaning a huge audience, a large portion of which will be mocking the game more than enjoying it. Over the course of the week, a number of national writers, faces we haven’t seen since Pete Carroll was a big story in training camp, stopped by the team’s headquarters, and well, let’s just say they weren’t hear about Charlie Whitehurst.
That’s right folks, for the second time in a little over 25 months, a local team is a national curiosity.
Like the 2008 Huskies and Cougars, the Seahawks are grabbing headlines around the country not because of how good they are, but because sports fans love a good disaster almost as much as they do a winner. In case you’ve forgotten—and good for you if you’ve been able to black this out of your memory—the 2008 Apple Cup became a big story because the Huskies came into the game winless while the Cougars had one unimpressive win on their resume. Fast forward a couple of years and the gawkers have their eyes trained on the northwest once again, this time to see if a playoff spot will go to a .500 team or, for the first time in a non-strike year, to a team with a losing record.
But no matter how many times they are asked whether or not they are deserving of a playoff spot, the Seahawks maintain that, no matter their record, they will be thrilled if they can pull out a victory Sunday.
“We’re not worried about what the outsiders say,” running back Justin Forsett said. “We’re trying to get there, and once we get there anything is possible.”
Besides, the comparison to the 2008 Apple Cup—or Pillow Fight on the Palouse if you’d prefer—are only accurate to a degree. Yes, this game has become the butt of weeks-long joke because neither team is particularly good, but there is also a huge amount at stake on Sunday, compared to 2008 all that was on the line staying out of the “worst college football team ever” argument.
Whatever your opinion is of a seven- or eight-win team making the playoffs, the fact is that either Seattle or St. Louis will make the playoffs, which is quite an accomplishment given where the two teams have been in recent years. Seattle won nine games over the past season, while the Rams were much worse, winning just six times over the previous three years. Back on Oct. 3, when the Rams trounced the Seahawks to force a three-way tie for first place in the division at 2-2, it was half-jokingly suggested that this season-ending game between St. Louis and Seattle could decide the division. And despite both teams’ struggles along the way—the Rams have been outscored this season by a total of 29 points, while the Seahawks have been outscored by a whopping 107-point margin, a point differential better than only four last-place teams—Sunday’s game indeed will determine the NFC West champion.
And no matter what anyone thinks of that scenario, it sits just fine with the Seahawks.
“You go through all season, you go through training camp trying to get to the playoffs, and no matter what the record is, if you’re in the playoffs, you’re in the playoffs,” center Chris Spencer said. “So all that’s being mentioned about it… The rules are the rules, so for us, we’re happy to have the opportunity to be able to fight to get into it.”